Malaysia PM Seeks Backing From Opposition Before Confidence Vote

Embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin sought bipartisan support from opposition parties by proposing a slew of reforms ahead of the confidence vote in parliament next month.

This would pave the way for a more stable and inclusive government to be formed after the confidence vote, Muhyiddin said in a televised address on Friday. A cross-party agreement could be discussed next week among party leaders, he added.

“This will allow the government of the day to continue managing the pandemic until the time is right to hold an election and return the mandate to the people,” he said, pledging to call for a general election by July next year.

Muhyiddin has been under pressure to expedite the confidence vote to prove his government’s legitimacy. This is after lawmakers from the largest party in the ruling coalition, the United Malays National Organisation, retracted support for his administration earlier this month over its handling of the pandemic and the economy. Daily cases topped a record 21,000 on Thursday, and total fatalities from Covid are nearing 12,000.

Muhyiddin acknowledged he had lost the support of “several” lawmakers and that the easy way out was for him to resign. However, that would undermine the government’s plan to reach herd immunity by October and endanger the lives of the people, Muhyiddin said.

“Given that not a single other MP has the support of the majority right now, a new prime minister cannot be appointed,” he said. “When a prime minister cannot be appointed, then a cabinet cannot be appointed and a new government cannot be formed.”

Inclusive Government

Opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan earlier Friday invited all lawmakers who rejected Muhyiddin to back Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister. Pakatan Harapan said 120 of the nation’s 220 lawmakers did not support Muhyiddin as premier, and suggested that they hold talks together to form an “inclusive, just and progressive” government where all parties were treated fairly.

“If PH-UMNO can come up with a better offer than Muhyiddin’s, then Malaysia wins. Even if they fail to, Malaysia may see under Muhiyiddin some reforms that PH failed to deliver,” said Wong Chin Huat, a professor of political science at the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University in Malaysia. Muhyiddin’s “main selling point is that the opposition (PH, UMNO) cannot offer an alternative majority.”

Still, several opposition lawmakers such as Hannah Yeoh quickly took to Twitter to express their objection toward Muhyiddin’s proposal.

Anti-Defection Law

Muhyiddin proposed parliamentary reforms while appealing the opposition to back him. These include providing all lawmakers with the same annual allowance regardless of their party affiliation and bringing the benefits for the opposition leader on par with a senior minister.

Muhyiddin said his administration will table bills to limit the premiership to two terms and introduce legislation to ban party-hopping should he get support from more than two-thirds of the house. He was flanked by nine colleagues at the briefing, including Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yakoob, who is an UMNO member, and Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz.

“If my proposal for bipartisan cooperation is accepted, I will call for a special parliament sitting to table the confidence vote soon,” he said. “I give my assurance I will take honorable and constitutional action to resolve the political turmoil.”

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